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Apr 16, 2010 10:33 AM

Vegetarian / vegan picnic - French style?

I'm smitten with a girl and would like to take her on a picnic.

Her: Somewhere between vegetarian and vegan (recovering hippie), prefers no wheat.

Me: Lactose intolerant, can't do strong vinegar (vinaigrettes, mustard etc).

I'd like to take her on a picnic, and was thinking of doing some veggie dishes.

I'd really like to experiment with vegetable pates. Does anyone have any recommendations for what to do and which recipes? I'm trying to choose one for mushroom pate now, but could use recommendations on that front, and suggestions for other veggies to try.

I'm also thinking of a chilled asparagus soup since I have two pounds that need to go, and perhaps a mild remoulade of some sort.

Any recipes or inspirations would be much appreciated. She's awesome!

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  1. Nice idea! Chilled asparagus soup, mushroom pate, and fruit would make a lovely picnic and very French. I would have said bread too but you said no wheat. When I am not eating wheat I quite like Scottish oat cakes, something like Nairns.

    Chowhound Chris VR posted this Mushroom Leek Pate some years ago. Vegetarian but not vegan. Quoting her:

    It's pretty labor intensive, and has a paté-like consistency and a rich flavor, due to the butter and cream, but it's very good and makes a nice dish to serve for vegetarians.

    2 large leeks
    1 1/2 pounds mushrooms
    4 tbsp butter, plus more for the loaf pan
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1/4 cup dry vermouth
    2 tbsp. lemon juice
    grated zest of 1/2 lemon
    3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
    3 tbsp. snipped fresh chives
    1 tbsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
    salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    1/4 cup flour
    4 eggs
    1 1/2 cups cream

    Trim off the roots and the dark green tops of the leeks. Separate several of the large outer leaves from the leeks, reserving the insides, rinse them and blanch in a pot of boiling water for 3 minutes. When they are wilted, drain and refresh them in cold water. Drain them again and pat them dry on paper towels.

    Butter a 6 cup loaf pan. Cut aluminum foil OR parchment paper to fit the bottom and sides, butter both sides, and line the pan with the foil/paper. As an inside lining, lay the leek leaves across the pan over the foil/paper, overlapping them as necessary to cover any gaps. Let the ends hang over the sides.

    Preheat the oven to 375. Chop the mushrooms fairly fine (if you use a food processor, do this in batches and be sure not to over-process them). Finely chop the reserved inner leeks to measure about 1/2 cup. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium-low heat and sauté the mushrooms, leeks and garlic, stirring often, for about 10 minutes. When they cook down and their liquid evaporates, add the vermouth and lemon juice. Continue cooking until the mixture is reduced to a thick, dark mass, about 15-20 minutes. Season to taste with lemon zest, herbs, salt and pepper. Stir in the flour, blending it well, and set aside off the heat.

    Beat the eggs together in a large bowl and stir in the cream. Loosen the mushrooms with a spoonful of cream, then mix in all the mushrooms, stirring to make it smooth. Carefully pour the mixture into the prepared pan and fold the leek leaves over the top to enclose the mushrooms. Place the pan in a larger pan filled with boiling water to reach halfway up the sides. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour. Let the mushroom cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes before unmolding. Remove the foil/paper on top, turn the pan onto a serving plate, and remove the foil/paper on the sides.

    To serve, slice the loaf into slices with a serrated knife. Serve it warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 servings.

    1. Aww! I love it when a guy can say something like that on a public forum. (I am assuming you are a guy, of course) I thought I might throw the idea of chickpea flour crepes out there. Can be used as a wrap- they are usually good warm or cold. In my native Indian cuisine they are called "cheelay". You should be able to find recipes for them on the web. The ones I like the best involve chopped fenugreek leaves, minced garlic, bit of thinly sliced hot green chile, chickpea flour, a little bit of rice flour, water and salt. Stuff with a slaw (prolly better to do onsite, or atleast not too far ahead of time) or some brown rice and pan fried tofu, herbs. Even a fruit chutney might work. Okay, I know, not very french. But you can always throw out the idea. Good luck to you!

      5 Replies
      1. re: sweetTooth

        Brilliant, SweetTooth - there are also French versions of chickpea flour things called "socca". (From the Nice/Marseille/Riviera area abutting Italy - so would fit your Provencal theme!) Only downside is they're s'posed to be eaten hot, so it might be better for when you're having the prospective girlfriend over for dinner.

        I too love the romance-inspired/inspiring posts! <3

        1. re: Mawrter

          Yikes! Looks like my response got lost.
          Thanks mawrter! I did remember vaguely that Italian/French cuisine had something like this, but didn't realize that it was actually Provencal. I think I saw it on some Batali show or in Saveur. Yeah, socca do look like they would be too dry to eat cold. Cheelay on the other hand are supposed to be quite soft, so they would still work when cold. Looks like using Cheelay as a wrap is not that novel after all:

          1. re: sweetTooth

            I bet you did see it in _Saveur_, b/c the former editor, Colman Andrews, wrote a book called "Flavors of the Riviera" about that region (both Italian & French) and there's practically a whole chapter on socca & the various micro-regional variations, names in local dialects, etc. [/moment of food geekery]

            1. re: Mawrter

              Thanks for that info. I just looked up this book on Amazon. Looks intriguing. Putting it on my library list! Thanks again!

              1. re: sweetTooth

                You are very welcome - I want to read his book "Catalan Cuisine," too, and did you notice he has a newish title about Irish cooking? Love his writing.

      2. You sound like the kind of guy girls dream about.

        How about a sort of Nicoise salad, but with chickpeas instead of the tuna? Tone down the acid in the dressing, maybe by using orange juice instead of lemon, or substitute your favorite other type of dressing.

        The best vegetarian pate I know of doesn't take a recipe. Chop and saute well a large onion and as much garlic as you like. Get it pretty brown, and if you want to take it all the way to caramelized, that's good too.

        Put in a food processor and add one can -- yes, can -- of baby peas, strained of all their liquid. Add roasted walnuts or pecans (start with about a cup) and process till you get to the texture you like.

        You can experiment with seasonings. Some thyme or oregano added to the onions is good, as is sherry, vermouth or other winey things. I've cooked some garam masala with the onions, and that was very nice too, but it did take it in a very un-French direction.

        This stuff is super. Whenever I put it out at a party, it's one of the first things to go along with the deviled eggs.

        1. In all my 14 years of living in France, I never met a French vegetarian. So iy is not going to be authentic, but it can be fresh and festive. You could use an assortment , a large assiete of crudites.

          Salade Nicoise has Tuna, so that would be out. It also has anchovies.

          1. very nice. how about adding a nice lil veggie tart or a bruschetta with roasted eggplant/red onions on hummus.